The desire to place blame is quite common especially when a traffic accident results in injury or death. The question in some drunken driving cases involves determining who was ultimately responsible for the accident. Was it the driver who allegedly consumed too much alcohol or was it the bar, pub or restaurant that served that individual and then allowed him or her to walk out the door.
As some may know, there is a 1997 amendment to New Jersey’s auto insurance statutes that essentially denies drivers who have been found guilty of drunken driving to recover damages for injuries they suffered as a result of a DWI-related car crash. What is at issue here is that there is an older law that some say is in direct conflict with the ’97 law.
In 1987, a New Jersey statute was put on the books that effectively says business establishments that serve alcohol to customers are responsible if they are found to have negligently over-served liquor to a customer. Because these two laws are apparently at odds with each other, New Jersey’s high court will likely decide which law takes precedence over the other.
The appeal case that is bringing this issue to the fore involves an Ocean County restaurant that was sued by a Brick Township, NJ, motorcycle rider who reportedly was seriously injured in a November 2006 traffic accident in Toms River. According to news reports, now 46-year-old Frederick Voss ran a red light and hit another vehicle after leaving Tiffany’s Restaurant where he had been drinking.
According to court records, Voss consumed mixed drinks and various shots of alcohol for several hours prior to leaving and getting into the accident. Voss received multiple fractures and permanent injuries after being thrown about 100 feet through the air following the impact with the car.
Following the crash, police measured the riders blood-alcohol content (BAC), which was reportedly 0.196 percent — about 2.5 times the legal limit for intoxication. Although Voss pleaded guilty to DWI, he subsequently filed a lawsuit against Tiffany’s in which he alleged that the restaurant negligently over-served him alcohol. His attorney claimed that the bartenders at the restaurant could have easily seen that he was riding a motorcycle.
Depending on the outcome of the appeal, the decision could have a significant impact on automobile insurance costs, the smaller establishments that serve alcohol, as well as law enforcement and the court system that constantly fight against drunken driving.
Who pays when a drunken driver is injured?, TheDailyJournal.com, October 2, 2010